Sweden, Norway ambassadors finally confirmed by U.S. Senate
February 12, 2016 — 2:34pm
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate confirmed ambassadors to Norway and Sweden on Friday, ending a drawn-out political fight between Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz.
Minnesotan Sam Heins, a lawyer and human rights advocate, is now the ambassador to Norway. The country has gone 869 days without an ambassador. For the Sweden post, the Senate confirmed Azita Raji, an Iranian-born Wall Street executive living in California.
Cruz had placed a “hold” on the two nominations — a Senate procedure used to block actions — because he opposed President Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal. On Friday, Cruz spokesman Phil Novack said he lifted his hold because, after seven months, “he feels like he has successfully drawn attention to the issues that he believes are catastrophic in the Iranian nuclear deal.”
Cruz also wanted to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy after a dissident. The Senate granted that wish Friday, naming the open area Liu Xiaobo Plaza.
For the past seven months, Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, have called Cruz’s hold an unfair political maneuver that was hurting critical Scandinavian allies.
“I went to the floor every day for six days in a row to ask for consent or give a speech about it,” Klobuchar said. “I am really pleased. … We once again have a Minnesotan in the embassy in Norway.”
Outside of Norway, Minnesota is home to the largest Norwegian population in the world.
“For far too long, the United States has been without ambassadors to Norway and Sweden,” Franken said in a statement. “Our nation shares a strong bond with both countries and nowhere is that more evident than in Minnesota, which has the largest Scandinavian population in the country.”
Gov. Mark Dayton, speaking to a mostly Republican audience at the annual Minnesota Business Partnership dinner, repeated his familiar attack on the House GOP, blaming them for a legislative impasse on transportation.
Wells Fargo says CEO John Stumpf and the executive who ran the bank's retail banking division will forfeit tens of millions of dollars in pay as the bank tries to stem a scandal over its sales practices.
Former Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio announced Wednesday he will run for re-election to the Senate from Florida, reversing his retirement plans under pressure from GOP leaders determined to hang onto his seat and Senate control.